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Recording: Something you can duplicate live or a virtual canvas?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Dkerwood, Jan 16, 2006.

  1. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    Here's a question I've been chewing on for a while.

    So you're recording your newest project as a band. You all like to play live a lot, but take the recording process seriously.

    So do you record songs in such a way that you can recreate them exactly (or fairly close) live?

    Or do you use the studio as a "virtual canvas" for how your songs COULD be performed, and do it differently live (or skip it altogether in the live show)?

    I think as of right now, I fall right in the middle. I'm playing in a 3 piece, and I like to record a couple of guitar tracks on every tune, and sometimes even overdub vocals when 2 vocal parts aren't enough. But I'm not sure that I would go so far as to bring in a full horn section to record or play with a string quartet or anything totally weird like that.

    See, I just don't know. I really like going to live shows because they're not always exactly like the album... but then there are songs like Queen's infamous "Bohemian Rhapsody"... where the band would actually step offstage and play the recording for the middle part that they couldn't recreate live.

    I'm not talking about a specific purpose CD. Obviously, you want to keep overdubbing to a minimum for a demo CD that you intend to actually DEMOnstrate how your band sounds to a potential client. And we're not talking about art for art's sake. Just a typical band releasing a typical recording. No buco bucks for additional musicians, probably no backing tracks (I'm not a fan of them anyway).

    What are your thoughts?
  2. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Excellent thread!!!

    I'm a big fan of production. I love listening to a well-produced album and appreciating it. Still, a well-produced album doesn't mean that it needs 30 layers of guitars.

    I find that many national acts are disappointing live because they can't reproduce their material live. Well, part of the reason is that many national acts aren't just that good of musicians to begin with, but I digress. I see many bands hiring extra musicians as "hired guns" just so they can reproduce what they did in the studio. A lot of live music (espcially Rock music) is smoke and mirrors. I think it was the Rolling Stones who had a nameless guitar player backstage playing along. Also, I've heard of bands using samples and pre-recorded tracks to fill out their sound live. I don't really know how I feel about all of this.
  3. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    I hate seeing that, honestly. I hate going to a show and seeing a guy jamming on guitar on the edge of the stage out of the spotlight... To me that seems almost dishonest.

    The real kicker is when I go out and see a cover band with ONE guitarist cover all the important parts and it still sounds great. If this amateur guitarist can do it, why can't the pros?

    I mean, I picked up a live DVD of Newsboys, one of my favorite bands. It was a DVD designed to promote their new album. So about 10 minute in, on their second song (from the new album), we see five guys on stage - 3 of whom with microphones. We're hearing 3 vocal parts clearly... and then the camera cuts to the 2 backup vocalists, who are walking from the front substage to the mainstage, and CLEARLY not singing. I think that this was achieved with overdubbing after the fact, and they did that to be consistent with the album, even though they failed to actually achieve it that time live (it was their first live performance of these songs).

    I can understand why they did that, but when I first discovered it, I felt really cheated. Luckily, there are enough minor mistakes and inconsistencies through the rest of the performance to show me that this was probably an isolated incident.

    Usually, when I go into the studio, I will record a rhythm guitar part, which typically lines up with what I play most of the time. I'll isolate any leads that I play and put those on a separate track, so I can more easily control them. Usually, after I get these two tracks recorded and I can listen to them without having to PLAY them, I then come up with a few more decorative riffs, harmonics, etc, and add those. If they're important, these newly written parts will become part of my live performance.

    Heck, I'll even overlay some aux percussion over my drummer's track if the song calls for it. So what if we can't have another percussionist shaking the tambourine live?

    I also have a habit of writing bridges that can overlay the chorus at the end of the song. Live, the bassist will cover the bridge or the chorus, and I'll sing the other part. In studio, I'll sing the melody on each, and she'll come in and sing the harmony to each and then we'll mix them together.

    I do think that writing a complicated part for 6 part vocals would be a mistake, since I can't come anywhere near that live (even if we could get our drummer to sing). I've got a song that I wrote back when I was playing in a five piece that I could never do now because it involves piano, 2 guitars, usually some sort of trumpet or saxophone, and rhythm section. Even in the five piece band, we'd have to invite a trumpeter up on stage to blow a solo.

    I've tried to do it with the current band, but playing all the parts on the guitar seem to bleed the song dry. One of these days I'll figure out the best way to do it, and I'll resurrect the tune. Until then, I don't plan on recording it.

    Continue discussion.